Last week you got your feet wet and [hopefully] discovered just how fun using coupons can be. This week you are going to dive in completely!
(If you are new to my blog or brand new to coupons, I strongly suggest you read Step 1: How to Start and Step 2: Your First Shopping List before going any further.)
After 3 weeks of collecting newspaper inserts, you should by now have a decent stash. You still won’t be able to take advantage of every single great deal that comes along, but between inserts and printable coupons, you should be able to get many of them. (As a side note, it is important to know that no one gets to take advantage of every great deal. Newspaper inserts vary by region and printable coupons run out. Don’t get discouraged by this fact! You will still be saving a ton of money, and most deals will come around again a few months later.)
This week’s assignment will build on last week’s exercise, this time making a more complicated list and focusing on what to do once you get to the store and the checkout line. So get ready to dig in. Oh, and just one more word of caution before you get started: This is the baby-steps program for learning how to do coupons, and I have tried to simplify it and streamline it as best I can, to help you get the maximum amount of savings for the least amount of time. But do not be fooled, it will take time! Expect to spend at least 2 hours (and probably more at the beginning) each week preparing your list and gathering your coupons, and another hour at the grocery store.
week three assignment
- Make your shopping list, repeating steps 1-3 from last week’s assignment. This week don’t worry about limiting yourself to only three items. Choose as many items as you like, using the following guidelines:
- After coupons, if the item will be more than a 60% savings off the regular price AND
- The item is something that you want and you and your family will eat or use AND
- The coupon required for the savings is a printable coupon that is still available OR the coupon required for the savings is listed for inserts that you have collected so far
- Gather your coupons. Using the links provided on the coupon site you are using, first print all your printable coupons (as many coupons as allowed from as many computers as you are using.) Next, sit down with your list and coupon file and find the insert coupons that you need. (If you are having trouble deciphering the acronyms used, check out my Coupon Lingo blog.) As you gather your coupons, mark on your list how many of each item you will be purchasing. If you can’t find a specific coupon for an item on your list (remember, inserts can vary by region!) and you don’t want the item without the coupon, cross it off your list.
- Prepare your coupons for your trip. Go through your list once more and make sure you have the right number of coupons for each item, then stack them in the order of your list. In a perfect world, if I was writing my list by hand, I would try to list my items in the order that I would find them in the store, which would probably save me some time and backtracking at the store. However, I am lazy and I use my printable lists from sites like http://www.savingwellspendingless.com/, so the order of my lists is somewhat random. Use a paperclip to clip your coupons together, and then use a second paperclip to clip your bundle to your list.
- Go shopping. Once again, I recommend that you limit this shopping trip to only coupon savings items. Eventually you will be able to do all your shopping in one trip, but for the sake of our baby-steps program, you will have more success if you just focus on your coupons this time around. Likewise, go at a time when you are relaxed and not in a hurry. If you can swing it, try to go without your kids so that you can really focus.
- Collect your items. As you make the rounds in your store, scan your list to see what items you need from that section. As you gather your items, place the corresponding coupons in a separate pile. Be sure to double-check and confirm the following criteria:
- The item is actually on sale. Every once in a while, an item on the coupon website’s list will not be included in the sale at your store. Most stores mark their sale items very clearly, so be sure to look for a sale tag. If you have any questions about an item, place it to the side in your cart so that you can ask for a price check before you check out.
- The sale item matches your coupon. Double check to make sure brand name, size, and specific product are all a match.
- Checkout. Since you are confirming your coupons as you go, checkout should be a breeze at this point, but here are the some steps to follow to ensure a smooth finale to your first shopping extravaganza:
- Before you get in line, be sure to set aside any coupons that didn’t match or that you decided not to use so that they don’t add to the confusion.
- Once more, quickly make sure you have all your correct coupons in order, and take a minute to count how many coupons you are using.
- Look for the friendliest-looking cashier and get in line
- Remember to price check any items you may be unsure about.
- Tell the cashier you will be using a lot of coupons and ask whether he/she would prefer them all at once or with each item.
- When you place your items on the belt, be sure to place like items together, and try to put them in order of your list and coupon stack. This will make it easier for the cashier and easier for you to make sure that all your coupons are counted.
- Watch carefully to make sure all your coupons scan, and be patient and friendly, as scanning a large number of coupons can take a while.
- As soon as you get your receipt and before you walk away, quickly count the number of coupons scanned to be sure they were all counted. It is much easier to make any corrections right away!
- Bask in the glow of your sheen of savings. You did it, you rock, you’re a coupon-crazy-money-saving machine!
And that, my friends, is enough for this week! To recap: Make your shopping list, following last week’s guideline’s and the above criteria, gather your coupons, get yourself organized and ready to go, then hit the store, taking time to confirm you are grabbing the correct items, your coupons match up, and the item actually is on sale, and then find the friendliest cashier you can and make your way through the checkout line, step by baby step.
Stay tuned for next week’s assignment, and please feel free to post any questions below or share how you did this week. I love to hear from you, and I make every effort to answer any questions as quickly and thoroughly as I can!